The municipality of Santa Cruz must immediately find a way to start creating a zoning plan to order its coasts, that allows it to award concessions in areas that could be commercially active, and that helps to protect the ecosystem.
It’s not just a matter of protecting the environment, but also of acquiring more economic resources. If you don’t think it’s necessary, look at this: with a commercial coast nearly 80% smaller than Santa Cruz’s, Carrillo collects twice as much money from concession-holders.
Comparisons tend to be odious, but in this case it’s necessary to show one municipality how another is making headway, and how the first can imitate it, adapt its strategies, deeply understand how the second did it, and then replicate it. This doesn’t mean that Carrillo has a perfect municipality, but it has achieved better results in this area.
Having a zoning plan for the entire coast is, without a doubt, the first strategy that all municipalities in Guanacaste should follow. The Voice of Guanacaste isn’t the only one saying this: statistics, results, and specialists from the University of Costa Rica all confirm this.
Santa Cruz has a handful of zoning plans for the maritime zone for some beaches like Tamarindo (whose residents allege was “tailor-made” for tourism businesses) but it lacks a document that brings together all zoning for the canton’s coast.
Additionally, residents are forced to deal with the problem uncovered by this edition’s cover story: the chaos in maritime zone concessions.
We must recognize, however, that mayor María Rosa López entered office and took this issue on herself – without her necessarily being the one responsible for the mess. For years, the employee in charge of the Maritime Zone neglected his labors without any punishment from previous mayors, according to residents’ and council members’ complaints. López was the only one who decided to fire him.
In spite of that good decision, firing a troublesome person isn’t enough if resources aren’t used efficiently to bring order to the concessions, update the amount concession-holders pay, and collect what the municipality should.
This won’t happen by cutting a department by half (as happened when the employee was fired), nor by saying “there isn’t any money” to make a comprehensive zoning plan for the entire canton. If the three employees that comprise the department and the mayor show moxie and commitment, they could quickly produce substantial change that will be reflected in the municipality's finances.